Mass Effect: Andromeda- A Greatest Hits Throwback (Spoilers)

Since Mass Effect 3 hit the shelves in 2012, video gamers who’d loved the groundbreaking and ultra successful original Mass Effect series were eagerly awaiting the 4th installment. You can see my previous blog on the original Mass Effect here. If you don’t know about the original, it was an amazing game. Unreal graphics. Totally awesome voice acting. Leaps and bounds from playing Super Mario on Nintendo. Having said that…expectations were pretty monumental for the 4th game and unfortunately BioWare failed to deliver a game as breathtaking as any of the originals (Mass Effect 2 was the best one in my opinion). Now, Mass Effect: Andromeda is not a BAD game as some of the popular reviews have stated. Is it a great game? No. But, it’s entertaining. And that’s probably enough to keep the payroll at BioWare going on schedule. Below I’ll go over some pros and cons from the game if you’re so inclined to continue reading. (WARNING: SPOILERS) At the very least, it’ll make your play-through a little more enjoyable…after all you’re gonna invest 50-75 hours of your life if you complete the game.

See that guy above? That’s Drack. He’s by far the best character in the game and if you’d like to have an enjoyable play-through…take him everywhere. This game lacks in character development which leaves the journey feeling pretty flat. It’s too bad because Drack has some good dialogue and emotional moments in the game that would make some Hollywood writers kick themselves for not writing it into their movies. ‘Parents aren’t meant to be a goal or a finish line. We’re the starting line. Where you go from there? It’s all you.’ Now that’s a damn good line. Especially considering the fact that a lot of younger gamers out there might not have the opportunity to learn life lessons from competent and wise elders. Some young gamers might have a horrible upbringing and may glean some wisdom from that line. So, kudos to whoever wrote Drack’s dialogue on the BioWare staff. Damn fine work. Drack stands out because he’s a character that’s got depth, whereas all of the other characters are kind of just there. Even Ryder, the main character, is a bit boring. That’s not good. But hey…Drack is good. So yeah…..use Drack. He makes the game fun.

I played-through the game twice. Once as a male Ryder and once as a female Ryder. I never completed the male play-through because playing as a female Ryder was more enjoyable and what I thought was the more meaningful choice for the game. Sometimes you sit down to play a game and you can be either a male or female and the gender choice seems arbitrary, which it usually is. In this game, it made sense to play as the daughter to the original Pathfinder because #1 she is the older sibling of the twins (her and her brother are twins) #2 it stings a little more that the father (Pathfinder) sacrifices his life for his daughter rather than his son and #3 the female Ryder’s voice-acting is better than the male Ryder. The male Ryder’s voice acting came across as boring and robotic. It also kinda makes more sense in the relationship with Reyes Vidal to play as a female because…what testosterone filled leader runs out of a storage room holding hands with a random smuggler after a forced make out session precipitated by possibly getting caught and killed? What a dumb scene that was. So, whether you’re a male or a female or what have you….I think you’ll have a more enjoyable time playing as a female Ryder.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is clearly a throwback to Mass Effect 2. Throwback Video Game Day! #tvgd #awesome It’s basically the J.J Abrams Star Wars. A safe bet. Familiar for fans. Entertaining but…not too risky or original. And that’s fine. It’s unfortunate for seasoned gamers and die hard fans but it’s not entirely disappointing because there’s still some value in it. It’s clear to see all of the similarities in the story arc and details in the game. The main character is thrown into a situation where their choices will alter the universe, they have to assemble a team of unlikely allies to defeat a superior adversary (one of which is a tough, bad ass Krogan- exactly like ME2), the superior alien race is mysterious and no one knows where they came from and they genetically manipulate those that they destroy (similar to The Reapers) and the ship looks exactly like the one in Mass Effect 2 (The Normandy). There are more similarities but those are just some of the glaring ones. Mass Effect: Andromeda is not very original…and that’s fine because it’s a fun action game to play. If the gameplay were bad as well…. then yeah, the game would be total shit. So, if you’re gonna play it. Just be open to some mindless entertainment and don’t expect to enter groundbreaking new territory. I mean, the crew at BioWare couldn’t even come up with a better back story for the bad guys (The Kett) other than, they’re imperialistic and want to assimilate the inhabitants of the Andromeda Galaxy at any cost. That’s a real easy way to not put the time and effort into creating character depth and an engaging story. War is complicated. Leaders and Warlords are complicated. I’d imagine that there would be intricacies to mass warfare on a universal scale. Not just…we’re going to kill you. You’re bad. I’m good. The end. In Mass Effect: Andromeda. It is what it is.

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Here’s another big kick in the junk for veteran gamers. Your choices don’t matter whatsoever in any real type of way. For a detailed list of the consequences of your in game actions, click here. I had a big problem with Dragon Age: Inquisition for this same reason. When you watch a fictional film or read a book, you suspend belief and get involved emotionally, pretending that the characters choices and lives have meaning. It’s the same with a video game. When a consumer invests their time and money into an adventure, they want to escape reality and be entertained. They want their time to be valued. And when the story is flabby and the choices they make have no real meaning in the progression of the game, it’s a big let down. The game places a big value on the initial decision to make your first outpost military or scientific. It seems like a big deal that will effect the rest of the game….and it does not have any effect apart from inconsequential reactions from team characters and npc’s. Mass Effect? More like…Mass NON Effect. Har har har. There are several choices to be made but none carry the weight of choosing between Ashley or Kaiden in ME1 (your choice leaves one of them to die in a nuclear explosion-removing that character from all future games). Also, I would have thought that the programmers would expand on the squad choice dynamics that were introduced in ME2. In the final mission of ME2, you had to travel with 3 companions but also assign tasks to your other remaining companions. If you sent the civilians back to the ship with a companion that didn’t have the right skills, they’d die. If you didn’t choose the right teammate to lead squad #2, they’d die. There were various options where some or all of your team could live depending on the choices you’d made as a leader. That was cool. We all know it’s a video game and it’s just entertainment. But man….THAT FELT REAL. The choices in Mass Effect: Andromeda seem real at first but they’re just messy, fake versions of formerly effective features made to draw an audience in. It’s a disappointment but again….take the game for entertainment value. Worthy of one play-through and then returning it or trading it in. I only choose a handful of games to play each year so I’ve got high standards when investing my time and money into a game. So, if you like action games and stunning visuals. Go for it. If you’re looking for something more….wait until something like Kingdom Come: Deliverance comes out.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post and that it’s in some way added to your knowledge base and your life in a positive way. As always. Do you best. Be kind to yourself. To your neighbors. And to animals and plants alike. And Follow The Golden Rule as best as you can.

The Last Of Us

Wow!!!…..I had to start with that. ‘The Last Of Us’ may not be your style of game….and it does have some flaws.. but wow!!! Whoever they hired to write and direct this game….I applaud them. The opening sequence was better than most motion pictures I’ve seen in the last 2 years. Such great character development. You become instantly immersed in the game before you even start playing…and that is a good sign of things to come.

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Here’s the story in a nutshell. You’re a single father named Joel. You love your daughter. You go out to work one night, just like any normal day, and when you come home….there’s some type of outbreak. Zombies…Virus…Crazy People??? You don’t know. You grab your daughter and start running through town to find out that everyone has gone mad, there are explosions, chaos, confusion….and you just want to live.

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Fast forward twenty years and the gameplay begins. Now, I had some issues with the game mechanics for my first 10 hours or so of playing. There’s no auto mark when you aim to hit targets. It’s completely manual, which is both cool and annoying. It makes the experience more realistic but also means you’ll die a lot. On the plus side, there’s limited ammunition and you have to constantly scrounge for supplies. So while you’re killing bad guys or sneaking around buildings…you’re also trying to look in every area to find supplies, which is AWESOME. The guns are cool. The environments are amazing. The zombies and other bad guys are freaky. It’s fun. Period.

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The game is engrossing but there is one other flaw that really stands out. Your AI party characters, while interesting and helpful at times, get in the way a lot during gameplay. You might be trying to sneak away or fight someone and your companions are just always getting in the way. It’s a bug that needs fixing because it really takes you out of the excitement and immersive experience. The character build up is good and the ability to craft and modify your weaponry is cool too. I don’t feel like giving away spoilers because I really do think you should rent or buy this game and play it yourself. It’s a zombie apocalypse video game that is done really well and it’s well worth investing the 15-20 hours to complete it. The writing is flawless. The CG is great and the voice acting is superb.

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M.A.V.B.L.O.G Score- 9 out of 10. This is a really professional game and executed perfectly in great detail. It feels more like a movie than a video game. It’s fun. It’ll pulls you into the story. And it’s very emotional. You really feel for the characters. There are flaws that get annoying….but overall this game is AMAAAZZZIIINGGG.

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I highly recommend taking this game for a test drive. I hope you’ve enjoyed this M.A.V.B.L.O.G. Be good to yourself. Have a great day!